Kohl’s Corp. names Tom Kingsbury as permanent CEO

Enters into a cooperation agreement with Macellum

Kohl's Corp. headquarters in Menomonee Falls
Kohl's Corp. headquarters in Menomonee Falls.

Last updated on February 7th, 2023 at 01:49 pm

Kohl’s Corp. has officially named Tom Kingsbury as its new chief executive officer, the Menomonee Falls-based retailer announced Thursday.

Tom Kingsbury. Credit: Kohl’s Corp.

Kingsbury has served as interim CEO since Dec. 2, following the departure of former head Michelle Gass. News of his permanent appointment was expected after The New York Times reported last month that he and the Kohl’s board were in late-stage talks.

A Kohl’s board member since 2021, Kingsbury has more than 40 years of experience in senior positions at leading retailers, including president and CEO of Burlington Stores, senior executive vice president of Kohl’s, and several management positions at The May Department Stores Company, including president and CEO of its Filene’s division.

“Tom’s exceptional track record growing retail businesses and his deep knowledge of Kohl’s makes him the right choice for Kohl’s next CEO,” said Peter Boneparth, board chair. “Since joining the board, Tom has added valuable insight and perspective, and as interim CEO, he has demonstrated strong leadership and made a meaningful and positive impact on the organization.”

With the appointment of a permanent CEO, Kohl’s has also entered into a cooperation agreement with Macellum Advisors GP LLC, the New York hedge fund and activist investor that launched a campaign in early 2021 to overhaul the board and was ultimately unsuccessful. Macellum has now agreed to a “multi-year standstill, voting and other provisions,” Kohl’s said in a news release.

“The board appreciates our constructive dialogue with Macellum during the last few months and their engagement as we conducted the CEO search process. We look forward to their continued support and partnership,” said Michael Bender, independent director and chair of the board’s nominating and ESG committee.

After years of pushing for improved performance and new board leadership, it appears Kohl’s has finally done something right in the eyes of Macellum.

“We are very excited about the future of Kohl’s under the leadership of Tom and have the utmost confidence in his ability to maximize shareholder value,” said Jonathan Duskin managing member of Macellum.

Kingsbury succeeds Gass, who served as Kohl’s CEO for nearly five years before stepping down in December to take a job as president of San Fransisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. During her tenure, Gass led the retailer through numerous challenges, including retail industry headwinds, the COVID-19 pandemic and two near-board takeovers by activist investor groups. She’s credited with launching new partnerships, such as Amazon Returns and Sephora at Kohl’s.

The company currently operates nearly 1,200 stores across the country, largely in suburban markets.

“This is a pivotal time for Kohl’s, and I am excited and energized to work with our talented team to elevate our performance and create value,” said Kingsbury, who will continue to serve on Kohl’s board. “During the last few months, I have seen the passion and dedication of the Kohl’s team and the unique value we can bring to our customers nationwide. I look forward to partnering with the board and leadership team to build on our strengths and deliver on our strategy for our shareholders and other stakeholders.”

At the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2022, Kohl’s earnings were down 60% year-over-year. The company at the time did not provide guidance for the fourth quarter and withdrew its outlook for the full year.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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